Châteauneuf-du-Pape – A Southern Rhone King

a picture of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most recognisable blend varieties in the world, known for class and excellence. The vineyards cover an area approximately 3,200 hectares with 52% of those being directly in the Châteauneuf commune. In total, around 13 million bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are produced every single year, with 95% of those being of the red variety.

It’s The Taste That Counts

Wines labelled as Châteauneuf-du-Pape are some of the most delicious wines in the world. A bold age-worthy southern Rhône blend with a ton of character. Winemakers rely on low yields to concentrate the wonderful flavours. It takes a careful wine-making hand to balance the natural sugar in the grapes with the tannin’s. Both are needed to make a classic Châteauneuf blend. There are a number of different styles, but nearly all  Châteauneuf wines will be packed with fresh red and black fruit, with a touch of peppery spice. A lot of the wines can be drunk young, but take on a silky characteristic with age.

The Pope’s New Castle

The header above is the literal translation for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In fact, before it was known as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it was known as Vin du Pape (or Wine Pope). Without wanting to bore you with the complete history of the papacy, it’s hard to talk about Châteauneuf-du-Pape without referencing the importance of the Pope. In short, Clement V in 1308 relocated the papacy to Avignon, a town just to the south of some of the most famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards. Although the Pope’s were more found of wine from the more established Bordeaux, they helped the local area gain a positive reputation and promoted the advancement of viticulture practices. When John XXII succeeded Clement V, he regularly drank wines from the local vineyards and continued to champion the advancement of the regions wine industry.

The Chosen 18

If you’re looking to label a wine as a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, there are only 18 grape varieties permitted for use. It used to be that only 13 varieties could be used, but thanks to a new set of rules outlined in 2009, this has expanded to 18. The varieties like Piquepoul are now separated into both noir and gris, instead of being grouped together.  The dominant varieties are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. However, the full list includes, Counoise, Grenache noir, Mourvèdre, Piquepoul noir, Terret noir, and Vaccarèse, Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Clairette rose, Grenache blanc, Grenache Gris, Picardan, Piquepoul blanc, Piquepoul Gris, and Roussanne. If you’ve not heard of some of them, don’t worry…I hadn’t either, and I’ve been working with wine for a decade now.

What Are Galets?

Now here is the secret. Galets are pebbles that sit as a layer in the vineyard. They trap the sun in the summer months and releasing that heat over the course of the night. This helps to ripen the grapes in a unique way. They also help protect the moisture in the soil during the summer heat… what can’t these little stones do? It’s important to note that not all  Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards have galets, but they certainly help a lot of winemakers around the Avignon region.

Matching Food With Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Due to the amount of styles produced, it really is one of the most flexible wines for serving with food. The tannins and strength of most wines allows it to be paired with your roast meats. Your winter stews and your robust casseroles are also a winner here. However with a touch of spice, it also pairs very well with some Asian inspired dishes. Most Châteauneuf wines will be high in alcohol, usually between the 13-15% range. It’s important to pair the wine with food that has some oomph to it, some complexity, some depth.


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